Book Reports / Altars In The Street

Altars In The Street

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Autor:  anton  10 November 2010
Tags:  Altars,  Street
Words: 773   |   Pages: 4
Views: 446

The reading for ‘Altars in the Street’ is for people who live in cities and those who have fled them due to the ongoing war on drugs. It will speak to those who care about the future of today’s children, our neighborhoods, “communities”, our nation as a whole and anyone who dare look truthfully at the relationship between poverty and prison as well as community and education. These ideas are very similar to the writings of both Ehrenreich and Hahn, as they both portray views and ideas of achieving peace and the many aspects of war. Chavis’s book draws on deep reserves of good humor, common sense and practical experience of nonviolent action. Altars in the Street is a moving testament to the power of sprit in today’s world. The South Berkeley neighborhood of Lorin is unique in some ways. For one, it is truly racially integrated, which is a rarity in most American cities, especially in today’s times. Chavis’s efforts to deal constructively with her own anger and to practice kindness, even to those who are her enemies, reveals the essence of spirituality and what it can do to heal others. ‘Altars in the Street’ powerfully conveys the ethical base of service and rigors of compassion in an embattled environment.

Chavis’s writing does a very good job of showing the reader how the theories of Ehrenreich and Hahn, war and peace, can be united and portrayed in actual, real world, situations. Ehrenreich’s book, Blood Rites, focused primarily on aspects of war and how war has evolved so much over time. Chavis brings to life the idea of war that Ehrenreich writes of, bringing war to a central place, a community, which illustrates a path to making peace and quality of life right where we are. Like Ehrenreich’s book and how war evolves over time, Chavis writes how the “gang” takes over the neighborhood slowly, almost tactically; not all at once, but slowly over time. In Ehrenreich’s ‘Blood Rites’ Mongol warriors become dependent on the people who they’ve destroyed through the burning of their farms and towns. Chavis’s book is a modern day version of this “bloodsucking” concept; taking the positive out of the town and incorporating negative behavior. This behavior is not new and has been around for centuries.

Hahn’s book, ‘Anger’, focuses on the peace aspect of war and achieving peace within ourselves and those around us. Thich Nhat Hanh is a Buddhist monk of the Vietnamese medication school. He believes that “we must transform the seeds of anger, discrimination, superiority, and inferiority by transforming these seeds because if we do not, we suffer. Suffering is the compost, which can bring about the flowers and fruits of compassion. Community will remind us to apply insight into our daily lives, insight in every moment. In each of us, there is nonviolence and there is also violence. With mindfulness, we can begin to transform the violence, the war in ourselves, into love, understanding and compassion.” Hanh’s idea of making peace with oneself and others is brought to life in Chavis’s book. The book portrayed how Chavis’s own sister developed drug habits and of course later revealed that Chavis would not take this path. Chavis discovered mediation, portrayed in Hanh’s book, which allowed her to help other people. She discovered through her practices what Hanh refers to as “deep listening”. She, like Hanh approaches those affected by violence and drugs with a caring and compassionate perspective. Ultimately, Chavis comes to terms with the problems she has had in her life and is able to help others, through the discovery of her own experiences, to begin her fight on the ongoing drug war. Though she is not successful in her efforts of completely healing her community, she knows she has tried hard to save what other people had built so hard to achieve.

Chavis’s book is wonderful life story of one woman’s difference in both race and spirituality, and her ability to make a difference. This book could be read as a hand book of how to make a difference in ones community and in the world. The deepest message of this book is by showing others by example how opportunities for Buddhism present themselves in day to day life. Without dogma or rhetoric, Chavis shows how an ordinary person works at making change happen and just how far one can go by having a dream and living it. I am personally moved by the account of her efforts to build, protect and enhance a home and community. She was truly committed to solving problems in her own community and building a better future for children.

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